As a fourth-grade student at St. Mary’s school in Oswego, I had a wonderful teacher whose name was Mrs. Burns. She was a kind, grandmotherly type person who simply exuded positivity. She believed in uplifting the spirits of her students, and one way to do that was to introduce us to the world of Henry Huggins.  

She would read to us from the Henry Huggins series of books by Beverly Cleary, author and librarian. Henry would regale us with stories of neighborhood adventures with his dog Ribsy. We would take turns reading a page or two aloud. It was my favorite fourth-grade experience, and a formative positive influence in my life.

Where is Henry Huggins when you need him most? If I was permitted to ask one question of Donald Trump, it would be, “Do you know who Henry Huggins is?” Somehow I doubt he had a fourth-grade teacher like Mrs. Burns, who read aloud to him, or if he did, he may not have been paying attention, and probably spent his time making spitballs in the back of the room and throwing them at his fellow classmates.  Character building comes about when we have fourth-grade teachers in our lives like Mrs. Burns, who introduced us to the world of Henry Huggins and his friends Ramona and Beezus, and dog named Ribsy. Henry was a paper boy, too. I identified with that and became one later myself. Many life lessons were learned as a paper boy, not the least of which was responsibility.

People depended on you to deliver that daily paper, weather notwithstanding. You couldn’t quit halfway through the route, or fail to show up for your daily duty. Too many people would be disappointed and adversely affected. You would have to summon the energy, and apply it to the task of delivering those 140 papers to eager customers who looked forward to devouring their content.

It is called responsibility. If your customers failed to get their paper because you threw it into the bushes by mistake, you would take responsibility for it, and make it up to them. There was no such thing as “I take no responsibility at all.”

Henry Huggins had a job to do. He and his trusty dog got it done, and took joy in the process. I am sure when he grew up, Henry Huggins could have played the part of Robert Young in “Father Knows Best.”

I, for one, long for a return of Henry Huggins values and  moral leadership in this country.  It is clearly something that is sorely missing, and something which we need to restore. Our American system of values, of caring and sharing and neighborliness, not to mention responsibility, are an important part of who we are. The buck has to stop somewhere.

What happened to derail us from that model? Technology for one, but technology does not have to make us blind to common decency and our long held American value system. One need only to turn on the TV to get a glimpse of what I am commenting about. There is a very marked difference in tone from the federal briefings on the pandemic to New York’s state briefings.

Clarity, resolve, decency, fortitude and trust do indeed all matter. We must fight to get those values back.

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